This world. This place. This life.

Noticing service dog fraud


On this trip, Liesl and I have seen evidence that service dog fraud is on the rise.

Example one. On the Alaska Marine Highway, all pets have to stay in their owners’ vehicles on the car deck. Throughout the day (and night) the purser announces car deck calls when pet owners can go down and visit their animals. It’s hard on the animals, and not easy for the owners, either.

The only animals allowed in the passenger areas are service animals.

One woman on the ferry regularly had her dog with her, with no vest identifying it as a service dog, and its behavior with other dogs on the car deck (where the dogs relieve themselves) was certainly not that of a trained service dog.

Uh huh. Fraud, we figured.

Example two. At the Holiday Inn Express in Corvallis, Oregon, I overheard a conversation in the lobby.

A man checking in asked, “Do you charge for dogs?”

When the answer was “Yes,” he said, “What if they’re service dogs?”

The front desk clerk asked if he had verification that they were service dogs.

And the man said, “Well, I’m a veterinarian. Does that count?”

I have no idea if he had to pay for them, but later I saw him with the two dogs and his wife, sitting outside on the back deck, enjoying breakfast. Neither of the two border collies wore anything identifying them as service dogs.

The service dog legislation was written with flexibility in mind, so that people with disabilities wouldn’t have to constantly fight for their right to be accompanied by service dogs. But unscrupulous people take advantage of that flexibility, and it’s just not right.

7 thoughts on “Noticing service dog fraud

  1. Indeed: yesterday, I saw a vested “service dog” pulling its person through a crowd without a hint of control on either the dog or person’s part. I thought that read wrong.

  2. I’ve been wondering about this since encountering a woman who complained that her “service dog” wasn’t welcome at a church event. I didn’t know until then that there is no certification. Do you think there should be some? I’m inclined to say yes, myself, because freedom from dog hair is also an accessibility issue and it’s no joke when people who don’t need their dogs to be present insist on it. But I know little about the issues involved in making a certification system work well.

    • I think everything new needs to be open to revision—and at one point service animals were new. How much have we revisited how it’s working? I don’t know. But I hope there are people working to make it better.

  3. Our church has avoided the issue of certification by simply putting the people with animals on one side of the church and people with allergies on the other side. Certification might help but some people will make an issue out of it and this method makes it easier since we avoid whether or not the animal has “right” to be there.

    • I wonder how well that works, allergy-wise. Do you get any feedback? I’m trying to imagine how the pet dander doesn’t make its way over to the pet-free zone . . .

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